Holliday praises Van for position switch
HOUSTON - Marshall had two 100-yard rushers Saturday in its 54-51 double-overtime win over Rice. Those runners, Steward Butler and Kevin Grooms, combined for exactly one carry the previous week in a grating loss to Ohio.
The Thundering Herd's leading rusher after three games, Travon Van, had zero carries against Rice. But as Doc Holliday puts it, Van deserves a game ball.
Herd coaches removed Van from the logjam at running back to join the cornerbacks. Van even got in the game briefly, though he got mowed down by a downfield block on one play.
On the other hand, Butler, Grooms and Remi Watson got to show their stuff. Butler romped for 166 yards and a 57-yard touchdown; Grooms gained 103 and scored three times, once from 45 yards; and Watson added 84 yards and two scores. Grooms also caught a 5-yard touchdown pass.
Of the four tailbacks in the season-opening rotation, Van had the most carries with 39 after three games, but he also had the lowest average per carry, 2.4 yards.
On the other side of the equation, Marshall had essentially three ready-to-play cornerbacks: Monterius "Pacman" Lovett, Keith Baxter and Derrick Smith. Even a nick or a cramp, to say nothing of a longer-term injury, would make that position razor-thin.
And that's why Holliday summoned Van to cross the line of scrimmage.
"Travon, I called him in the office on Monday and said, 'You know what? I need you to move to the corner, we don't have enough corners over there,'" Holliday said. "And guess what he said: 'Coach, I'll do anything I have to do to help this team win.'
"You can't say enough about the unselfishness - he goes from starting tailback to playing a little corner this week. But you know what? He'll be a hell of a corner or safety at some point. It gave the opportunity to get those two young running backs in the game.
"With Travon's unselfishness and team attitude, he helped us win this game today."
The tale of the tape behind Marshall's revived ground game:
The last time the Herd did it on the road came under the previous coaching regime - Sept. 26, 2009 at Memphis, 2 and 69 yards by Darius Marshall.
Elsewhere on the two-deep, defensive end Ra'Shawde Myers did not make the trip. That left Alex Bazzie as the definite starter, with Malcolm Strong and Armonze Daniel getting more snaps. Daniel even played linebacker on some plays, a position where he started his MU career.
Speaking of linebacker, Deon Meadows saw some of his most important action, playing in Devin Arrington's place at weak-side linebacker. Right guard Garrett Scott returned to action with 5:44 left in the first half, but he played sparingly. At corner, Thomas received his first start - at Penn State or Marshall.
And finally, receiver Demetrius Evans played defense on a "Hail Mary" play at the end of the first half.
As for actual live bodies, Saturday's crowd at least outdid the estimated 2,000 diehards who saw Marshall eke out a win at Memphis in the Liberty Bowl.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or email@example.com.